The owner of the region’s largest newspaper announced a $1 million donation to the MSUM mass communications department Friday.
The gift, revealed at Hansen Theatre just before the four living current and former MSUM presidents held a panel discussion, will be used to create the William C. Marcil and Jane B. Marcil Center for Innovative Journalism.
The new center will allow MSUM to better “prepare new generations of journalists,” said president Edna Szymanski, who thanked Marcil for his generosity.
“There has been a longstanding, symbiotic relationship between Forum Communications and this university.”
In a short speech before a crowd that included several MSUM mass communications alumni who work for his company, Marcil said the future of journalism is bright.
“We’re pleased to report that this is still a good business,” said the owner of 33 regional newspapers, along with various television and radio outlets. “Responsible people still read newspapers, because they’re a source of trustworthy, reliable information.”
A steering committee — led by Forum Communications CEO and President Lloyd Case and two MSUM deans, Tim Borchers of the College of Arts, Media and Communication and Marsha Weber of the College of Business and Innovation – will decide how the center will develop. In broad strokes, mass communications professors said, the new funds will go to support scholarships, pay for new equipment and improve programming. For example, the sports communications and media analysis minors may become majors.
“This partnership is going to be meaningful,” Marcil said. “It’s a partnership that we hope will be maintained for a long time.”
Mass communications department chairman CT Hanson said the Marcil donation would allow the already top-notch department to remain so.
“The gift will permit us to continue our efforts to remain not only on the cutting edge of journalism, but will afford us a unique opportunity to provide our students with new experiences using innovative media platforms and new communication strategies to keep America’s media industry a vital component of our American democracy,” Hanson said.
The development might help recruiting, Hanson said, for a department that – like the university generally – is experiencing declining enrollment.
“Any time you have new life coming into your program, that adds positive publicity,” he said.
After the presidential panel, several mass communication professors shared their reactions to the donation at a department Homecoming meet-and-greet in MacLean.
Although the new center won’t likely directly impact her classes, advertising professor Jody Mattern called the gift “a good shot in the arm for the program.”
Deneen Gilmour, who teaches multimedia journalism classes including “Writing for the Web” said she hopes the center succeeds at preparing students to land the jobs that are out there.
“This is an exciting era,” she said. “I cannot wait to see what happens.”
Martin Grindeland, whose course load includes videography classes, said the donation reflects optimism about journalism he shares with Marcil.
“I agree with those who believe that the golden age of journalism is up ahead,” Grindeland said. “The Center for Innovative Journalism should be a great resource to maximize our potential.”
BY BRYCE HAUGEN